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Information literacy: Avoiding plagiarism

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism means presenting someone else’s work as your own. Plagiarism is intellectual theft and is regarded as academic misconduct.

The different aspects of plagiarism

Avoiding plagiarism

Plagiarism can be committed unintentionally. Make sure you always provide proper source references so that others can see which ideas are not your own but found in publications by other authors. Providing proper source references also enables other people to check these sources. See the boxes below for tips on how to avoid plagiarism.

Do I have to provide a reference if I describe something in my own words?

You should always provide a source reference when you use someone else’s work in your own text, irrespective of whether you are citing directly from the work or describing it in your own words (paraphrasing).

Generally-known facts do not have to be referenced

Statements such as ‘The rise of the internet has had a major impact on the development of society’ do not require a source reference. This statement is so widely known and accepted that it can be regarded as a generally-known fact.

Grey areas

Unfortunately, it is not always clear whether a source reference is required. In such cases you will have to decide for yourself. Your decision should be based on the principle that you do not want to present someone else’s work as your own.


Committing plagiarism can have serious consequences for the perpetrator within the University, such as exclusion from course units and even degree programmes.